Siege of Abu al-Duhur Airbase

Siege of Abu al-Duhur Airbase
Part of the Syrian Civil War
Date23 September 2012 – 9 September 2015
(2 years, 11 months, 2 weeks and 3 days)
LocationAbu al-Duhur, Idlib Governorate, Syria

Rebel victory

  • Rebels capture three villages[1][2] and the airbase[3]

Army of Conquest[4]

Syria Free Syrian Army
(until late 2014)

Syrian Arab Republic

Commanders and leaders
Syria Jamal Maarouf
(until late 2014)[7]
Brig. Gen. Ihsan al-Zuhouri 
(Abu al-Duhur commander)
Abu Al-Jarrah[8]
Colonel Hussein Al-Yousif [9]
(Syrian Arab Air Force 678 Squadron division commander)
Lieutenant Mohammad Khadour [9]
(Syrian Air Force officer)
Lieutenant Saarem Mahfoud [9]
(Syrian Air Force officer)
Units involved
Syria Syrian Martyrs' Brigade
(until late 2014)
Katibat Sayfulla (كتيبة سيف الله) [10][11]
11th Tank Division[12]
Liwaa Suqour Al-Daher[8]
678 Squadron[13]
1,000+ fighters[14] 250–700 soldiers[14][15]
Casualties and losses
dozens killed
(final assault)[16]
56+ killed,[17] 71 captured (all executed),[18] 40+ missing[19]
(final assault)
One helicopter[7][20][21]
Antonov An-26 crashed[22]

The Siege of Abu al-Duhur Airbase was a battle for the Abu al-Duhur airbase in the Idlib Governorate during the Syrian Civil War. It was captured by rebel forces on 9 September 2015. The base had been besieged since September 2012.

The siege

On 22 September 2012, rebels from the Free Syrian Army carried out a coordinated attack involving 3 rebel battalions on the airbase at Abu al-Duhur, and then preventing Syrian Army reinforcements from reaching the base. They also claimed to have shot down a fighter jet during the attack, though this was not independently confirmed. By September 2012, the Syrian Air Force base was partially besieged by rebel fighters. The rebels, led by prominent commander Jamal Maarouf, established positions on the base's western edge, from where they were able to fire on the base's runways. The base was reported to have been rendered effectively unusable as a result, with planes no longer able to fly to or from it.[23] By this time, supplies for the troops were airdropped by helicopters that flew in from airbases in Hama. The rebels also upped their attacks on the airbase.[21] They claimed that as a result of their employment of anti-aircraft weaponry, they rendered flights from the base inoperable.[24][25] In August and September 2012, two MiG-21 and one MiG-23 jet fighters were reportedly downed above the airbase, including one reportedly shot down by Maarouf himself.[7]

In 2013, al-Khashir checkpoint (north east of the airport) was destroyed and burned by rebels.[26] However, the army kept control of the village.[27] The base itself was also unsuccessfully stormed by the FSA on 30 April 2013, which temporally seized the western part of the base.[13]

In early morning of 27 November 2014, heavily armed army units moved from Abu Duhur airbase under cover of artillery and air force and captured Haymat ad Dayir and Mustarihah villages north of the airbase, before retreating back to the airbase.[28][29]

After the capture of the Wadi Deif and Hamadiyah bases, the rebels turned their attention to the Abu al-Duhur airbase. They gathered about 1,000 fighters around the airport that is defended by about 700 soldiers.[14] On 15 January 2015, the jihadis launched an offensive on the village of Tal Salmo that was geared at opening a new front south of the Abu al-Duhur Military Airbase. the jihadis attacked 2 points controlled by the army’s 11th Tank Division and the National Defense Forces (NDF) at Tal Salmo. the assault on the 2 axes was foiled by the loyalist forces after almost 2 days of non-stop fighting with the militant groups.[12] The following day, the jihadis pounded the village of Tal Salmo with a barrage of mortar shells in order to weaken the army fortifications. After that, the militants stormed the army defenses at Tal Salmo, attempting to breach the latter’s frontlines from the western perimeter of the village. The jihadis were unsuccessful in their infiltration attempt, as the army fought off the assault, resulting in their complete control of the checkpoints adjacent to the village.[30] 10 days later, it was reported that the jihadis were in control of Tal Salmo. The village has strategic importance because it is close to the main gate of the airport and because it contains water wells that the troops in the airport consume via canalization.[1] A week later, violent clashes took place at the main gate of the airport.[31]

On 18 January 2015, an Antonov An-26 operated by the Syrian Air Force crashed while attempting to land at the besieged Abu al-Duhur military airport. There were 35 people on board,[32] 30 Syrian soldiers[9] and 5 Iranian military experts.[22] Syrian media and the pro-opposition SOHR, said that the crash was due to heavy fog or "technical issues".[32][9][33] However, Al-Qaeda affiliated group Al-Nusra Front claimed that they shot it down.[32][34][35] Syrian media provided a list with the names of the 30 Syrian soldiers who were killed.[9] Per SOHR, 13 Syrian officers were among the fatalities.[22]

On 23 January 2015, the jihadis managed to control al-Hamidiyeh village on the East side of the Abu al-Duhur airbase. However they pulled out to the outskirt later.[36] On January 25, 2015, an Al Jazeera journalist from inside the village reported that the jihadis were in control of al-Hamidiyeh.[1]

On 17 February 2015, al-Nusra Front reportedly shot down a helicopter above the airbase.[20]

On 26 August 2015, jihadis launched an assault on the airbase attempting to bypass the Army’s frontline defenses from two axes before they were repelled. The jihadis began their assault by sending two suicide bombers with their VBIED toward the base’s western gates; however, the two militants were unsuccessful in reaching their destination, as the guards destroyed the enemy vehicles. Following their unsuccessful suicide attacks, the militants stormed the western axis of the Airport, where they attempted to bypass the fortifications at the main gate of the base. Then the jihadis stormed the eastern gates of the base from their positions at the village of al-Khashir. The clashes continued until the army repelled the attackers.[37]

On 7 September 2015, jihadis launched another assault on the airbase under the cover of a heavy sandstorm[38] after at least one al-Nusra fighter blew himself up inside the base.[39] That day, jihadis captured Tabarat al-Khashit and its hill on the outskirts, forcing the government fighters to retreat towards the eastern gate.[40] The next day, jihadis advanced inside the airbase and captured the eastern part.[2] Jihadis began posting pictures of them standing in the base on the social network not long after.[41]

On 9 September, jihadis captured the entire airbase.[3] The fall of the base was initiated after the Army withdrew to the outskirts.[8] Syrian state TV conceded that government troops had "evacuated their positions and moved to another point".[42] According to the SOHR, at least 56 soldiers were killed and 40 captured, while dozens of others are still missing.[17] Dozens of jihadis were also killed during the battle.[16] The airbase commander, Brig. Gen. Ihsan al-Zuhouri, was among the government casualties.[43]

As of 10 September, 18 soldiers were known to have escaped the airbase, while the rest were either killed, captured or missing according to government sources.[44]


On 18 September, 56 soldiers were executed by the al-Nusra Front and the Turkistan Islamic Party in Syria, bring the total number of executed soldiers in the airbase to 71.[18][45][46][47] A total of 63 soldiers reached government-held areas, while over 40 soldiers were still missing.[19] On the 25th of November 2015, a video surfaced showing the execution of 42 SAA personnel on the airbase.


  1. 1 2 3 "النصرة تسيطر على بلدات بمحيط مطار أبي الضهور بإدلب". Al Jazeera. 25 January 2015.
  2. 1 2 Leith Fadel. "Jabhat Al-Nusra Enters the Abu Al-Dhuhour Airbase in Idlib: Intense Fighting Reported". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  3. 1 2 Master. "The troops of Bashar al- Assad's regime lose their last position in the province of Idlib". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  4. "Al Qaeda and allies form coalition to battle Syrian regime in Idlib". Long War Journal. 24 March 2015.
  5. "Syrian rebels fight Syrian army near Assad heartland". Newsweek. Reuters. 30 April 2015. Retrieved 1 May 2015. As the biggest group in Army of Fatah, Ahrar al-Sham appears to hold the key to preventing infighting.
  6. "Ivan Sidorenko". Twitter. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  7. 1 2 3 Rebels Make Gains in Blunting Syrian Air Attacks
  8. 1 2 3 Leith Fadel. "Syrian Army Withdrawals Most of Their Soldiers from Abu Al-Dhuhour Airport". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  9. 1 2 3 4 5 6 Leith Fadel. "Idlib: Cargo Jet Crashes Outside of Abu Dhuhour Airbase - 30 Dead". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  12. 1 2 Leith Fadel (15 January 2015). "Idlib: The Al-Nusra Front Launches an Offensive at Tal Salmo". almasdar news. Retrieved 15 January 2015.
  13. 1 2 Oryx. "Oryx Blog". Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  14. 1 2 3 "تحقيقات--مطار-أبو-الظهور-العسكري-..-والمعارك-التي-دارت-فيه". شبكة تفاعل التنموية. January 19, 2015. Retrieved January 21, 2015.
  15. "Leith Abou Fadel". Twitter. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  16. 1 2 المرصد السوري. "أكثر من 120 قتيلاً وأسيراً وجريحاً من قوات النظام خلال السيطرة على آخر معاقلها في محافظة إدلب". المرصد السورى لحقوق الإنسان. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  17. 1 2 Master. "At least 56 soldiers of the regime troops killed while dozens wounded and missed in Abo al- Dohur clashes". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  18. 1 2 Master. "71 soldiers of the regime forces executed in the airbase of Abo al- Dohur". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  19. 1 2 Leith Fadel. "Syrian Rebels Execute Unarmed Prisoners from the Syrian Army in East Idlib". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  20. 1 2 Al-Qaida rebels down Syrian helicopter over Idlib province
  21. 1 2 Rania Abouzeid (Feb 7, 2013). "Ground War: Syria's Rebels Prepare to Take a Province from Assad". TIME. Retrieved Feb 7, 2013.
  22. 1 2 3 sohranas. "11 military leaders from militia of Hezbollah and Iranian Revolutionary Guards die over the last 24 hours". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Retrieved 24 January 2015.
  23. Barnhard, Anne; Hania Mourtada (22 September 2012). "Rebels Announce Move of Headquarters From Turkey to 'Liberated' Syria Territory". The New York Times. Retrieved 31 October 2012.
  24. Rebels attack Syrian military airport, say shot down jet. Reuters. 2012-09-05.
  25. Chivers, C.J. Rebels Make Gains in Blunting Syrian Air Attacks. The New York Times. 2012-09-26.
  26. Archicivilians (August 2014). "Abu-ad Duhur". Archicivilians. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  27. Elijah J. Magnier (January 27, 2015). "JAN Map video clearly showing the current situation in Abu_Dhuhur_airbase". Elijah J. Magnier. Retrieved January 28, 2015.
  28. "تقدم عسكري للمعارضة بريف إدلب والمعارك محتدمة". alarabiya. 28 November 2014. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  29. Elijah J. Magnier (27 November 2014). "SAA control of Khaz'zanat helped forces inside Al-Zohour military airport 2advance into near-by Tal Selmo and Mustariha villages.". Elijah J. Magnier. Retrieved 23 December 2014.
  30. Leith Fadel (16 January 2015). "Idlib: The Al-Nusra Front Continues Their Push into Tal Salmo". almasdar news. Retrieved 18 January 2015.
  31. "ريف إدلب خسائر للنظام في هجوم للنصرة على مدخل مطار أبو الظهور". Orient News. 1 February 2015.
  32. 1 2 3 "Syria conflict: Army 'plane crash' kills 35 soldiers". BBC News. 2015-01-18.
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  34. "Al Qaeda says downs Syrian cargo plane, army says fog causes crash". Reuters. 2015-01-18.
  35. "ASN 20150118". Aviation Safety Network. 2015-01-18.
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  39. Master. "New violent attack launched on the airbase of Abo al- Dohur in Idlib". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  40. Master. "The violent clashes continue around the airbase of Abo al- Dohur and the oilfield of Jazal". Syrian Observatory For Human Rights. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
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  42. "Syria conflict: Rebels seize key Idlib airbase". BBC News. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
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  44. Leith Fadel. "Deja Vu in Northern Syria: Jabhat Al-Nusra Captures the Abu Al-Dhuhour Military Airport". Al-Masdar News. Retrieved 19 September 2015.
  45. Brooks-Pollock, Tom (19 September 2015). "Syria civil war: Islamist rebels 'execute 56 government troops' following capture of air base". The Independent.
  46. "Insurgents killed 56 government troops at captured air base: Syria monitor". REUTERS. BEIRUT. Sep 19, 2015.
  47. Bulos, Nabih (19 Sep 2015). "Militants execute 56 Syrian regime soldiers at captured airbase". The Telegraph.

Coordinates: 35°44′02″N 37°06′14″E / 35.7338°N 37.1039°E / 35.7338; 37.1039

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